Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thinky thoughts

Given the discussion that's been going around, I thought Rachelle Gardner had a lovely guest post about being kinder to yourself as a writer. Go check it out.

Another discussion going around is the one over at the Literary Lab about what makes a good story and the need for a good idea to do so.

Writing is a long haul exercise. A long term investment of yourself in words and craft even if you write short stories or flash fiction. And over the long haul, a story will take on a life of its own. Plot affects characters; how characters react drives plot.

What I think is imperative here, what needs to be present for the story to work, is honesty. And respect. For your craft, your words, your characters, your story, your readers.

For your good idea. Wherever that idea takes you.

And after all that pontificating by me, here's two hundred words of flash fiction.
She shivers hard, wraps her arms around her middle.

It doesn’t help.

She kicks out her legs; stares at the tiny, bare feet in front of her.

The door cracks open. She drops her feet.

The gap widens; she’s not alone in the room anymore.

He drops onto the stool, rolls to the desk.

“Are you sure this is what you want?”

If there’s anything she’s sure of in this life, it’s that she doesn’t want this.

“I’m nobody’s mother.”

“A simple yes or no will do.”

There’s no room in her life for this.


A long forefinger taps the file; he doesn’t bother looking at her. “The father isn’t…”

“Relevant.” Her eyes are as flat as her voice.


“Should he be?”

“Does he know?”

A glass-edged smile slashes her lips. “Does he care?”

No, he doesn’t. And she doesn’t need what he hasn’t got; doesn’t need the weight of his disinterest or pity.

She doesn’t need anything small and needy weighing her down.

“You shouldn’t be alone.”

“I’m not alone, my…friend is waiting.”

“Do you have any questions?”

“Can we just get this over with?”

He pushes back, leverages himself to his feet. “I’ll get my assistant.”


  1. Thank you for the link over to the Literary Lab!
    I like your thoughts on how we should be honest in our writing. It certainly makes a huge difference.

    Thank you for sharing your writing. I like your descriptions and dialogue. :)

  2. Powerful stuff. I don't want to say 'been there, done that' but I have and what you've captured is totally, brutally honest. It's almost as if you were a fly on the wall listening to my own dialogue.

  3. Lady Glamis- The discussion there is fascinating and really covers things I've been thinking about much more coherently than I could express. It's a pleasure to read. And thank you for stopping by.

    PW- I'm sorry you were there. It must have been a difficult experience. And thank you for the kind words. Honest is one of the nicest things you can say to a writer about their writing.

  4. Reading our discussions over the last few days, and the very interesting ones from your links (btw, thanks! I love food for thoughts, and I don't have to worry about the calories...) I was reminded of something I read recently and that has some relationship with the matters at hand, particularly the self-doubt angle and the need to be kinder to oneself, and trust one's skills and individual gifts.

    I hope it helps to make you feel better when doubts and despair knock at your door: it's the introduction to a story by Harlan Ellison and the author writes about a story he wanted to submit to a magazine - remember that he was already famous by the time these events occurred.

    Here it is:

    While I am occasionally rejected by magazines, even these days, it happens infrequently enough to scare the hell out of me when it seems possible. I suppose one is never inured to the fear of that kind of rejection.

    But they liked it, they bought it, they published it, and the story drew sufficient praise to dull my worries. Not enough praise to flense the fear completely, but sufficient to permit my continued arrogance.

    When you're all alone out there, on the end of the typewriter, with each new story a new appraisal by the world of whether you can still get it up or not, arrogance and self-esteem and deep breathing are all you have.

    It often looks like egomania. I assure you it's the bold coverup of the absolutely terrified.


    Success, no matter how complete, no matter how persistent and ongoing, cannot totally shield us from the mortal dreads.

    Interesting, isn't it?
    And also a little comforting, I hope.

  5. Thank you Nymeria for posting this. It helps to know that even famous authors still have 'the fear'.

  6. You're right PW, it does help to know that.

    And Nym, you always seem to know the right thing to say to make us all feel better. I think he's right in that praise from our peers or our readers does dull our fear, push it into a dark, little corner until we're sitting alone at the computer or waiting on reviews.

    It's all part of the package.

  7. You're both welcome :)

    Reading those lines while following these discussions about the joys and woes of writing had such an incredible impact that I just had to share it with you. Happy to have given some help, small as it was.

    What impressed me most about Ellison's declaration of fear was that he's usually very aggressive and outspoken, certainly not one to succumb to doubts or uncertainty. I guess he's human, too, after all... :)

    And I forgot to say, SJ, that your latest piece, even taken out of the context where I saw it the first time, works just as beautifully - even better, too. It feels sharper, and cuts more deeply. #bow#

  8. It's a good thing to remember that underneath it all we're all human and given to the same doubts and fears and joys.

    And thank you; you always know just what to say to make me smile and blush. :)